Seeing families with two children triggers me. Especially when it’s an older girl and a younger boy. My son, our rainbow baby, should have an older sister. Four – five-year-old children trigger me. They remind me of who my daughter should be today. Pregnancy announcements trigger me. They bring me back to the excitement, and more strongly the heartbreaking outcome, of our first pregnancy. Birth announcements trigger me. They remind me that we didn’t bring our first born, our daughter, home. They remind me that she died. My heart remains widely open to my family and friends – with every pregnancy announcement, I close my eyes and hope deeply that they’ll bring home a happy, healthy newborn. But it also hits a deep wound. My heart rate increases, I feel the color drain from my face, and I realize that I’m reliving the trauma of losing my child all over again. I haven’t lost the love I have for my friends and family, but I have gained an unimaginable amount of sorrow and pain through the death of my daughter.
My sister has two children: an older girl and younger boy. Her family looks just like my family should. We were all together at the beach and hired a photographer to take family photos. This happened two years in a row, and both years I became inconsolably upset. Not crying or outwardly sad, but angry – with sudden bursts of fury and vitriol. I’m embarrassed about how I acted. And I couldn’t understand, in each respective moment, why I was so heated. I examined myself and my reaction after it happened the second time. I realized what it was: the hole. The child I was missing. The complete picture that my sister had versus what I didn’t. It was an intense trigger that emerged unexpectedly for me. Triggers are perfectly predictable or entirely unrecognizable.
Sometimes, I can’t reach out to a friend after they’ve welcomed their living baby into the world. It isn’t because I don’t care, and it isn’t because I’m not happy for them. I’m sadder for me than I am happy for them. I’ve accepted this difficult reality of my grief because I’ve tried to fight it for too long. I know, now, what it does to me every single time. The exhaustion associated with sending a text, email, or calling is compounded with the fear that they’ll ask if I want to see a photo. Or worse, they’ll send one unprompted. In my mind and heart, all I see, and feel, is Lila.
My mindset, currently, is that my family and friends understand, as much as they possibly can, because they know me – and a lot of them cried with, and for, me. They know I love them and want the best for them. Though, if they misconstrue my silence for coldness, at any juncture in our relationship amidst the growth of our respective families, I have to be ok with that. They just don’t understand. They can’t. And for that, they are boundlessly lucky.